Rife with hard-drinking, lusty cynicism and quirky characters named Cyclops Reilly or Monsignor Séan Pius (“Johnny Pie”) Burke, this is very much the Irish Catholic, New York City novel its title suggests.
Now in his 50s, successful political strategist Jude Wolfe Tone O’Rourke is tired, both of politics and of his life. Several things conspire to energize him, however, especially his hatred and contempt for Jackie Swift, “New York City’s most reactionary Republican congressman” and his meeting with Simone “Sam” McGuire, a gorgeous and savvy political operative. As O’Rourke makes an unexpected decision to become the Democratic candidate rather than to shill for others less qualified, things quickly get down and dirty. The candidates try to one-up each other in mud-slinging, not difficult when the coke-snorting Swift is having an affair with his chief of staff, and O’Rourke is accused of having sympathies with Irish terrorists. O’Rourke runs a wild campaign of brutal, sometimes obscene honesty—he’s especially effective on a Fox network “news” show more than a little reminiscent of The O’Reilly Factor—and finds his numbers climbing. The virgin of the title starts out as a joke or an embarrassment. As Swift and his paramour are getting it on while simultaneously watching The Song of Bernadette, he has a heart attack. His campaign manager tries to explain that he had a vision calling him to even more forcefully oppose Roe v. Wade, but McEvoy (Terrible Angel, 2002) forces us to take the supernatural dimension more seriously when O’Rourke, and occasionally McGuire, also have dreams and visions that are cryptic, yet loaded with meaning.
McEvoy manages to sustain some suspense—and even inject some idealism—although we know where this election is heading.